This article has been updated to reflect the version that ran in print on Jan. 19.
Yale athletics and major sports apparel company Under Armour announced a multiyear deal last week to make the brand Yale’s official athletics outfitter.
Effective July 1, the partnership spans across all of Yale’s varsity teams and marks the first all-sports deal for the Bulldogs. The deal will also be a first for Under Armour: although the brand’s 32 other Division I all-sports partnerships include major programs such as Maryland, Notre Dame and Wisconsin, Yale is the company’s first foray into the Ivy League.
Multiple outlets, including the New Haven Register, Bloomberg and Oiselle, one of Yale’s current apparel partners, reported that the deal is 10 years long and valued between $16 million and $16.5 million, but Patrick O’Neill, associate athletics director marketing and licensing, said those numbers cannot be publicly disclosed at the moment.
“I can’t go into detail about what [Under Armour] actually gave us, but I will say it was extremely generous,” O’Neill said. “A lot of thought was put into it, and I speak for the department in saying that we’re extremely excited to partner with them.”
O’Neill said that the department received interest from Under Armour’s competitors, but the offer from Under Armour was the “best bid for the most part.” He also declined to disclose the names of the competing brands.
Under Armour will be the exclusive provider of apparel, footwear, uniforms and equipment for Yale athletes, coaches and staff beginning in the 2016–17 season. The single exception is for cases in which Under Armour does not produce footwear or equipment for a specific sport, Yale Intercollegiate Equipment Operations Lead Assistant Jeffrey Torre said. In cases like those, teams may use another brand, as long as it is not one of Under Armour’s direct competitors such as Adidas or Nike.
“Under Armour, for example, doesn’t make an approved field hockey shoe that they wear on the turf,” Torre said. “[Under Armour] understands that and [the field hockey team] will not be wearing Under Armour [footwear] for games because of that.”
All varsity teams will receive newly designed uniforms by the 2016–17 season, Torre said. Because the uniforms are still in their early design stages, no images are currently available to the public.
Torre did say that because Yale is an “ultra-traditional” school, the designs will not significantly change, but noted that there will still be some noticeable differences in the look of Yale’s uniforms.
“There won’t be anything like digital camo or lightning bolts or anything like that,” Torre said. “You can expect to see the standard navy with white trim or vice versa. Nothing on that end is going to change.”
None of the nine athletes interviewed had information on what their uniforms might look like.
The only team that will sport non-Under Armour apparel next year will be the Yale men’s basketball team, which will continue its ongoing contract with Nike through the 2016–17 season.
But Oiselle, which began sponsoring Yale women’s cross country and track teams last fall, is suffering a different fate.
The upcoming spring season will be Oiselle’s last time outfitting the Bulldogs, a decision Sarah Lesko ’91, a former Yale runner who works at Oiselle’s corporate development office, called “unfortunate and involuntary.” But Lesko added that Oiselle and Yale had never formalized the duration of their deal.
“Personally, I’m very sad, but we understand how the world works and how money talks,” Lesko said.
Prior to the Under Armour partnership, while some Yale teams had individual contracts with sporting brands — such as football and men’s basketball with Nike — most varsity teams sought out local vendors individually to acquire their apparel, footwear and equipment, Torre said. With the exception of those individual contracts, Yale athletics covered all such expenses, and each team had an operating budget to use for gear.
Student-athletes interviewed were hopeful that the deal would make the process of acquiring apparel easier for all teams.
“To get more Yale-styled clothing we even have a sophomore assigned to organize private orders of additional gear that everyone on the team has to pay for himself,” heavyweight rower Stephan Riemekasten ’18 said. “This is tricky for team members that have to watch their spending more closely.”
Negotiations between Yale’s athletic department and Under Armour began last June through a contact that varsity sports administrator Kevin Discepolo had with the company, O’Neill said. Talks continued through the summer, with meetings taking place both at Yale and at Under Armour’s headquarters in Baltimore.
According to University protocol, the athletic department had to file a “request for proposal” with Yale’s Procurement Office, which gave all companies in the apparel and footwear business an opportunity to bid to be Yale’s apparel provider, O’Neill said.
In addition to the size of Under Armour’s bid, O’Neill said Yale was impressed during a visit to the company’s research and development department, specifically by the research that Under Armour conducts to make its equipment safer.
“We are thrilled to welcome Under Armour to the Yale Athletics Family,” Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said in a statement. “We are excited to work with a world-class company on a very special partnership that provides our student-athletes with the best sports apparel, footwear and equipment.”
Most student-athletes interviewed were supportive of the deal, though distance runner Sarah Healy ’18 noted that “Under Armour sneakers are generally not as good for running as Nike sneakers,” which the team previously wore. Still, Healy expressed excitement about the deal. Many other athletes said they already owned Under Armour gear due to their high quality.
Athletes on both the men’s and women’s golf teams were particularly excited for the deal, as Under Armour sponsors Jordan Spieth, last year’s Masters and U.S. Open Champion, whom golf player Elisabeth Bernabe ’17 called a “role model for a lot of golfers worldwide.”
Other prominent professional athletes signed to Under Armour include Stephen Curry, Lindsey Vonn and Tom Brady.
Lesko said she was surprised Under Armour would invest in Yale given that Ivy League athletics see less publicity than many other Division I schools with major sponsorship deals, but noted that the deal might mean that Ivy schools are moving closer to the spotlight of collegiate athletics.
O’Neill said there is validation in seeing a big-name apparel brand recognize the value in being associated with an Ivy League athletic department.
“Some coaches have come up to me and said ‘Why us?’, and my response is ‘Why not?’” O’Neill said. “If you look at it, Yale athletics is up-and-coming and some of our teams are going to take it to the next level and be a force on the national scene. The validation is that Under Armour sees that and wants to be a part of it.”
Torre said Under Armour representatives expressed a desire to become partners with either Harvard, Yale or Princeton. He said he believes Under Armour chose Yale because it would be the best fit of the three.
O’Neill said that in addition to providing sportswear, Under Armour agreed to help Yale in its marketing and licensing initiatives in order to increase fan attendance, improve the teams’ brands and get more television coverage for Yale teams. No details have been defined yet, and discussions on that end will start at the end of the month, O’Neill said.
Under Armour last finalized an all-sports deal with the University of Wisconsin in October of last year.